On the “Down Low” with the Sin Culture by Shellie R. Warren
“And so I insist--and God backs me up on this--that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They've refused for so long to deal with God that they've lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can't think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion…”---Ephesians -19 (Message Bible)
“You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them--the usual variations on idolatry--will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.”---Ephesians 5:5 (Message Bible)
For about three or four years now, I have been following what used to seem like some distorted urban myth. My first introduction to it was a Vibe Magazine article that interviewed several black men who were living a life that they called the “Down Low”. They had wives or girlfriends that they were sexually active with, while being sexually involved with men. As if that was not enough to make one’s stomach turn, what had me on the brink of nausea was that they did this while claiming to not be gay (Of, relating to, or having a sexual orientation to persons of the same sex), or even bisexual (Of, relating to, or having a sexual orientation to persons of either sex). Strangely enough, what many of them said was that they were “simply” sexually curious and/or “freaky”. But the real mind-blower was that some of them even claimed to beat up what they called “faggots” for being overly feminine and emotionally attached to men.
At the time, I thought “Wow, that’s crazy” and then went on with my life. A couple of years later, I dated someone who was rumored to be gay in some circles. Although I didn’t see any stereotypical signs of a homosexual, long story short (if you want the long one, get my book), my mind instantly went back to the article I had read and some of the mild online research I had done. I remembered a brother under the alias of Malik saying “I have a two-way [pager] for my ‘Down Lows’. I tell my girl that I am going out to the club…and I am. I am going to the club to hook-up. Then I come home to her and my kids. There is no way she would ever know because I love her and have sex with her on a regular basis as well.They [his ‘hook ups’] don’t know where I live, they don’t have my phone number and I never see most of the ones that I ‘get with’ again. Why would I?It’s not love, it’s just sex.”
Wow. Fast forward to a recent Oprah show and all of my random thoughts and fascinated concerns were made very public.J.L King, the author of a new book entitled, “On The Down Low” was a featured guest discussing what is now believed to be a major cause of why the AIDS epidemic is so startling high among African-American women.According to a recent report, while blacks only make up 12% of the American population, black women account for over 64% of all newfound cases.
As it relates to being on the “Down Low” or DL, "That sounds a whole lot better than saying I'm bisexual. Never I'm gay. Never that word," King stated in a recent Chicago News publication.He also went on to state that men like him are everywhere. It could be your father, your brother, your doctor or even your pastor without you ever knowing it.
Another man interviewed in the same article stated, "You can't pick it up. So if a female was to look for characteristics or some traits that a DL brother would display, she'd lose her mind because they're almost invisible.”
However, it was what one woman said in response to the DL lifestyle that prompted me to write this piece: “I really think it’s a very selfish form of lifestyle because it’s risky” and puts others at risk.
You are so right, sistah. But then God led me out of the sex culture and into the sin culture as a whole.The reality is, probably many of us are disgustedly amazed by the DL lifestyle because there is now physical evidence of the consequences of people who choose to live these secret lives. Now that many are actually dying as a result of this strangely popular fetish, we are informing, educating and even warning others about the dangers of it. Of course what adds to the complication is that since so many on the DL do not carry the title of “gay”, “homosexual” or “bisexual” it is very difficult to detect---oftentimes until it is too late. Scary, isn’t it?
But isn’t that just how sin is? So many of us have little “side sins”, fetishes if you will, that we too are in denial by convincing ourselves that if we don’t accept the title, we don’t have the problem.
“I am not a gossip. I just talk about certain people every once in a while.”
“I am not a thief. I haven’t been to church in a while and that’s why I haven’t paid my tithe.”
“I am not promiscuous. I only sleep with one person on the regular or I haven’t slept with as many people as so-and-so.”
“I am not an adulterer. I simply flirt with people and maybe kiss them from time to time.I don’t actually sleep with them.”
“I am not a liar. I just didn’t give all of the details that people are expecting in their question (a lie by omission, by the way).”
“I am not a substance abuser.I only get high or drunk when I am out on the weekends.”
“I am not arrogant. I can’t help it if I have no friends because everyone is envious of me.”
“I am not mean. I am just moody.”
“I am not jealous.I just wish certain people didn’t flaunt their stuff in my face all the time.”
“I am not selfish. I had to work for what I have and so others should do the same.”
“I am not a hypocrite.There are legitimate reasons why I do what I do.”
“I’m not irresponsible. I am young and living my life.I have time to grow up and mature---later.”
“I am not judgmental. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…”
“I’m not a backslider. I don’t do ‘it’ all of the time, just on occasion.”
And the most dangerous one of all: “I am not a sinner. I go to church, I pray, I read the Bible. Sinners don’t do those things and so while I may dibble and dabble in sin from time to time, I am not going to carry the actual title of being a sinner.”
The possible scenarios of being on the DL when it comes to sin are endless, but that’s the funny thing about the sea of denial.One moment you are recreationally swimming, the next you are drowning in it, oftentimes totally oblivious until it’s too late.Unfortunately, those who are swimming around you (who are also in denial) are mistaking your movement for expertise rather than ignorance and so they don’t even see that you are in need of help. Just like the men who are sexually on the DL, sadly, because many of us are not willing to be honest with ourselves or those around us about our “secret sins”, people are dying physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally and especially spiritually at unbelievable rate.
A recent study published by the University City of New York stated that in 2001, over 77% of the American population was made up of Christians. Ironically, according to ReligiousTolerance.Org, “Divorce rates among conservative Christians were much higher than for other faith groups” and Americans for Divorce Reform confirmed that rate with the claim that “Probably, 40 or possibly even 50 percent of marriages will end in divorce if current trends continue.” A Hamberger and Hastings study showed that in a sample of batterers that they followed, more than 75% reported to be either Catholic or Protestant, while less than 22% claimed to be no affiliation.The Christian Institute released a study stating that over 98.7% of abortions in 1999 were made for social reasons, and ChristainRecovery.Org recently reported that at least six million Americans are addicted to cocaine, between five and ten million are addicted to prescription drugs, ten million are alcoholics, more than fifty million are addicted to nicotine and for every addict there are at least ten lives that are affected.
J.L King stated that his reason for “coming out” was to educate women, including his daughter about the threat of the DL lifestyle; no matter how much he may want to keep silent, too many lives are in danger. These statistics indicate that sin has become a widespread epidemic in the Christian lifestyle as well. The fact is, no matter how much we may not want to admit that we have problems, issues, challenges, strongholds with many of the things that God’s Word speaks out against, the world is speaking up and in many ways, speaking out against us because our “secrets” are hurting them---killing them as well as destroying us.
Just as Mr. King, I fear that we as Christians do not want to claim that we battle in certain areas because we feel that although we enjoy sin, we are not emotionally or spiritually attached to our “sin of choice”; that once we have received private gratification, we can go on with our very public lives---in the our churches, on our jobs and in our homes.We too have gotten so used to living a double-minded (James 1:5) and lukewarm (Revelation ) life, that to many on the outside looking in, we are walking contradictions:I do the sin, but I am not a sinner.It’s just an act.It doesn’t affect my life, my future or those around me overall.I love God very much.I am not emotionally attached to sin like I am to Him.I want it, I don’t need it.
I know as I conducted my own self-evaluation, I saw certain areas in my life that were just as conflicting as Mr. King’s; not choosing to accept the title doesn’t change the fact for either one of us that our actions speak much louder than our words ever will and our denial will only lead to an ultimate death either for us or the lives that we influence on a daily basis. It’s a sick frame of mind and in need of much help---more than our biased self-therapy can offer.
In the two-step program for recovery, the first one is to admit that we are powerless (over whatever our affliction may be) and that our lives are unmanageable. No matter how long you have been telling yourself that you can handle whatever it is you are doing, any time you are willing to risk all that God has for you for your closet obsession(s), you are at a place that this step needs to be implemented because sin (no matter how small we try to make it be in our minds) makes our lives unmanageable.
I am not sure what Mr. King or those on the DL in the sex culture’s ultimate resolve will be, and as much as I detest what he is being so honest about, I definitely appreciate him speaking out---not just for my sexual health, but my spiritual well-being as well. Just as he pleaded with women to keep open lines of communication with their mates, to discern what is going on around them and (especially if you are in a casual relationship) to have “protected sex” because you can never tell with the naked, human eye who is on the DL and who is not, I believe God is using this lifestyle and stepping it up a notch.
For those of us caught up in the DL of the sin culture, we too must keep an open line of communication with Christ, use the Bible and our conscience to discern the trappings laid out before us and the power of prayer as our protection every single day of our lives.
Because the reality is, we also cannot see with the naked eye what the Enemy is using to first entertain and then extirpate us with…either.